Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Worked

At dinner with the family last night, when the talk turned, as it inevitably does, to how bad mom is being for ordering her one order of onion rings all year, and how dad wants to stop eating french fries, and you remember Super-Size Me? Fries are so bad, oh man, it's the fries that kill you...

"I'm not really interested in discussing food we're not eating, while we're eating."

Everyone sort of laughed, and magically, the subject changed. Not too confrontational, not a big fight, something that did what it was supposed to! Hurrah!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It Must be Dangerous to Work Here

So I found seasonal work for December - yay! It's in a chocolate store - double yay! All sorts of tasty things for me to taste on an employee discount, in the same amount of moderation that I always use. Which is to say, not chiding myself for wanting to take a piece, but also not eating entire bags of candy in one sitting.

So why does EVERYONE come into my store and tell me "oh, I couldn't work here. I'd weigh 800 pounds! I'd never stop! It must be hard to work here. It must be dangerous."

I'm on the clock, so of course, I nod and smile and try not to let it bother me. But it kind of does. Are they trying to say something about me? Is it a compliment, that I'm "stronger" than they think they are because I do work here without trouble? Is it an unconscious dig at the fat girl working at the chocolate shop? Why do so many people feel the need to say it? Why do they all use the same phrases?

For some reason, that bothers me more than the people who just turn down the free samples with "I can't, I shouldn't, I'm being good," or the ones who accept them with "I'm being bad," or "I just worked out." Maybe I expected to hear those, and it's understandable why someone comments when I've offered them something and started a conversation. I just don't get why so many people feel the need to tell me how difficult it would be for them to be surrounded by chocolate and not eat all of it.

I've been in that place. It was an unhealthy place. If I worked here during high school, I'd bet pretty good money I would end up stealing. I would have taken out of the samples box and snuck them away for myself instead of the customers. I would have bought up huge amounts of candy and eaten them all in the car so they could just be mine with no one else knowing I had them.

I'm not doing that now. I have constant access to tons of chocolate and.....shock and surprise, I don't want it. Well, I wouldn't turn it down if it were mine. But it's not mine, the bag I bought to take home and have a couple on the nights that I'm home is mine. And if I weren't working here, I'd be doing what I did over the summer, and buying chocolate in the drugstore, and having a couple on the nights I'm home and I want them. The only thing that's changed is it's cheaper. And better quality.

It's just chocolate. It's not dangerous.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hark, a post? Indeed

Sorry, first of all, for unexplained major haitus - I still have a few things I want to write about, but finishing school + move to new state + 3-month job hunt + Temporary job + other writing projects = Forgot about blog. I've still been reading the people I've subscribed to, and I'm sure there'll be more to say in the future.

For now, I quickly present an ad that I didn't even catch the implications of at first - my friend did, and told me that he can't say anymore that he doesn't get offended by things, because people try really really hard these days.  (Blogger, please to embed youtube videos one of these days, love Sam)

In Ad-Speak: Don't jiggle it when you wiggle it!
Possible intended implication: Go ahead and move around, exercise, party, YAY!
Possible unintended implication: Just....don't go being fat at everyone while you're doing that, kay? Here's a girdle (Sorry...Compression Line)

I'm heartened to see the featured comment though:
"So, what's so bad about a woman's butt jiggling? Your commercials are very weird.
Why would a fit woman like the person in that commercial care about her but jiggling when she's doing some weird squat and frontal shoulder workout (with very bad form btw), why would she buy pants that specifically hinders butt jiggalige?"

In fact, a lot of comments are negative about the commercial, including "I jiggle it :(" and "I hate this commercial". (Granted, a lot of comments are also about how hot the models are, so take youtube with a grain of salt at all times.) Youtube comments aren't the right place to complain, so if you want to speak up to the company directly, try here!

Friday, July 15, 2011

I Still Love Sam Tarly

I'm about 200 pages into A Dance with Dragons, so no spoilers ;) Minor ones for the books and show ahead.

I've been a big fan of the Song of Ice and Fire book series since late high school. For those of you who don't know, that's the series that begins with A Game of Thrones, which recently got an excellent adaptation into an HBO miniseries (that I still haven't seen all of, but what I have seen was excellent). It's a rather gritty high low fantasy concept, focused on character study and worldwide politics. The characters are every single one of them vibrant and well-thought, and varied enough that I can't imagine anyone reading the series without finding someone to root for. There are a few fan favorites, but while everyone seems to have the same top two, the third slot, and fourth and fifth can change around like crazy.

The series actually came up recently in something of a feminist debate, after a New York Times reviewer referred to the HBO show as "boy fiction" dressed up with sex for the ladies. Which, apart from getting the stereotype wrong anyway, is nonsensical when one stops to think of the sheer variety of women presented in the series. Granted, Martin’s universe is patriarchal and cruel to its women, but a good majority of their storylines show how they deal with the lack of power that they have. Catelyn Stark raises her children and tries not to let her sons be lost to her; Cersei Lannister manipulates the men around her until she can become Queen Regent; Daenerys Targaryan is thrust into power that she isn’t prepared for, and attempts to be both a fair Queen and a conqueror.

So there’s a lot that I love about the books. But the thing is, I don’t think I’ve read them through since I got into Fat Acceptance. None of what’s about to follow means that I think the books or bad, or that Martin should be hanged, or that he’s obligated in any way to change the characters, or even that I expect any fantasy author to do so.

But in this world, Fat is a signifier of character flaws. I’m reading the early chapters, and none of the characters can stop from commenting about how termendously fat Illiryo is - so fat that his shirts could double as ships’ sails, so fat that he’s constantly eating and has to be carried in a liter. And I realized that I can think of a grand total of three characters who were overtly described as Fat during the course of the series, all of whom embody particular character flaws that their fatness emphasizes.

Sam Tarly (a favorite of mine since he first showed up) is a very un-manly man, in a manly man’s world. He prefers books to swords, he loves music, he prefers to be inside than out, he’s shy and cowardly. And he’s fat. He’s a little tubby pig of a boy and roundly mocked for it by his peers. Sam’s fatness seems both to show him as someone who can’t be as active as the rest (even though Sam does become a pretty important fighter later on), and as a childish person. He isn’t a man the same way that his same-aged, muscular, non-fat peers are. I also have an image in my head of Tommen Baratheon as being a little bit of a butterball, but I can’t remember if that’s in the book or just in my head - but similarly, Tommen is a very young boy who can’t by any circumstances be considered a man, and is not meant to be taken seriously as a source of authority.

Magister Illiryo is our aforementioned fat man, a rich merchant depicted as both lazy and overindulgent. In his opening scenes in Dance with Dragons, he is almost constantly nibbling on something, and his fat is as much a signifier as his luxurious clothes and palace that he is a man with no drive to ‘control himself’. He might as well be a hedonist for the way he’s portrayed, and he moves people into place for his own gains with a sneaky and untrustworthy skill. Illiryo is a man meant to make people uneasy, and his “grotesque” figure is part of creating that effect.

Robert Baratheon used to be a mighty warrior, but as he has become King and let himself go, he grew fat and lazy. Robert I only think is a partial case of this, but I still can’t help thinking that if the fat weren’t symbolic, it wouldn’t be there on a man with Robert’s history. As he became a worse and worse king, and grew older, he got fatter. Like Tommen after him, Robert can not be taken as a serious source of power in the realm, and like Illiryo, he is shown as being overindulgent in other matters like wine and women.

When I saw Martin talk at a signing for his latest book, someone asked why he had aged the characters up so much for the TV show. Martin replied that although he had done a lot of research and worked to be historically accurate by having very young women married off (engagement at 11, marriage at 13), you obviously couldn’t do that on television with the amount of sex in the show. I wonder, then, whether it ever occurred to Martin that it would also be historically accurate for fatness, especially in women, to be a sign of good health and wealth, and something to be admired as beauty. There’s something telling about what sells in our world, when we can take it as a given that in the past, people valued things differently in regard to adolescence and the place of women  -  yet Cersei, Daenerys, Margery Tyrell, Sansa Stark, all paragons of beauty, are all slim.

Again, this isn’t me berating an author for using stereotypes and markers that society will read and understand. It just struck me all of a sudden on this reading the way that the fat characters do embody stereotypes and markers. If anyone has characters to add to this list, please add them in the comments, because I’d love to see what I forgot.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New House, Old Habits

Phrew! It's been a while. I've had my college graduation, followed closely by moving to a new city, and a lot of stuff has gone by the wayside a little bit.

But the move and my new home are actually going to be relevant for a new post, so there's that. 

I'm living with friends of mine, people who are older than me and more settled in their lives, so they have no worries about adding another person to their menu-planning. I'm paying a rent that includes all utilities and most of my food, and I'm super-lucky to have the situation. They know a little bit about my mom and my old situation, my love of baking and cooking, and the fact that I wasn't allowed free rein in my old home; I've been assured multiple times that anything I want to take out and play around with, I'm more than welcome. I broke in the kitchen this past weekend by baking the most awesome lemon bars ever, and I've been involved in helping my housemates pick out vegetables and herbs to grow in their garden. I've been assured that anything in the fridge besides someone else's lunchbag is free game, and just let them know if I'd like anything in particular and it'll go on the shopping list. So all in all, it's relaxed around here, I know I get even more freedom with my food than I did in my college dorm, and it's a wonderful place to be. 

And yet...

I'm finding myself slipping into a few old habits, and I’m not sure why. I’m finding myself getting self-conscious, if not secretive, about what and when I’m eating. It hasn’t been enough so far, really, to keep me from eating when I want, but it’s weighing on me somewhat. There’s no good reason for it - this isn’t my mother’s house, nobody cares what I’m eating. But I get self-conscious anyway.

My housemates have been eating on a different timetable from me, so a lot of the time I don’t want to wait as long as they do to have dinner. But I feel weird about eating apart from them; it doesn’t help that there isn’t a kitchen table or anything out-of-the-way where I could sit, I really have to be out in the open unless I squirrel my food away to my room - which I’m making a concentrated effort not to do, because THAT is certainly going to lead to bad places.

More concerning than that though, I’m starting to slip into not-quite-binging behaviors. This past weekend, I had the whole house to myself, and it was up to me to feed myself and to know that no one was around to watch or keep any kind of track. And alone in the house, I caught myself eating really fast. I caught myself dipping into containers in the fridge, stealing a few cold bites and hastily putting it back away - even knowing that nobody cares and in fact I’m expected to eat plenty of the food that’s in there, I found myself feeling like I had to be fast and stealthy like I used to. When my friends got home earlier than I anticipated after the weekend, I was stuck having to eat while they were busy unpacking from their trip and bustling around the house; not only was I the only one eating, but I felt like i would have been in the way. So I ate as fast as I could, standing in the kitchen, trying my best to still be friendly and chat with them and not let it actually stop me from having my dinner.

So far, it’s not something that’s stopping me, exactly. But it is something that’s weighing on me. I KNOW that this is not the same home I grew up in, I know that I’m safe and that no one is watching, that my friends will be happy that I’m enjoying the food they’ve made, that my schedule is just different and I need to take care of myself. I’m doing my best not to let it affect my behavior, especially now that I’ve noticed the attempts at stealth and secrecy. I can’t let that start happening again. 

(apologies for tiny font, cant' seem to figure out how to put it right) 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Okay so I'm fat. Now what?

(If you have trouble reading specific numbers of pounds, be aware that I mention them along with my own weight here)

So I'm having a lot of feelings that aren't really coming together into a coherent blog post, but I also kind of don't want to keep them to myself, especially in the time I have left in my parents' house. I don't want to find myself doing anything dangerous, like the time I basically refused to eat under my mom's watch after her comments about the potato thing, but I also don't want to be ignoring things that might need attention.

I knew I was getting bigger over the past year. I kept complaining about pants because they felt tighter than they used to, and I wasn't in such denial that I didn't know why. I don't think I was eating especially more than I ever did - at least, I wasn't eating much differently this last year of college than I think I did the previous three. And I was making a pretty good effort to exercise more, between yoga twice per week and walking 2-3 miles 3-4 other days out of the week.

I'm at home till Saturday after graduation, and finally had access to a scale, and decided it would at least be good to know. And somehow I gained 15 pounds.

I don't want to be that person who freaks out about relatively small amounts of weight. But. Maybe it's just that this is triggering a lot of hopeless memories. It's one thing to be 15 pounds overweight (at least according to the doctors who expect you to lose it) but it's quite another to be 50, or 80, or now near 100 over the 120 pounds that they told me I should be striving for my whole life. Even if I lost those new 15 again, there'd be more of them. Even if I lost 30 or 50 I'd still be considered overweight. I remember how hopeless I felt, especially as I continued to gain weight through puberty.

But maybe I've rationalized things the wrong way. I grew to accept cheerfully the idea that when I leveled my weight off in my late teens by not doing anything, it just meant I was done growing. I was 180-ish at that point. There was still a big part of me that said "well, at least you're not 200 pounds. Then you'd REALLY be fat!"

And then I got to college, and stopped being self-conscious about eating as much as I was. No one was commenting on my choices, and while I have worked to get more vegetables and fruit and new foods into my diet, I felt so freed by not thinking about it. I let myself have treats most nights. I let myself eat for comfort when I needed it. I started learning how big a difference it makes to use or drink whole milk than skim. I wonder now if I thought too little, instead of too much.

I don't know what the range of "normal" is, and I don't know whether it's a problem, or a normality or something to be aware of and watch out for if I went from ~180 to ~215 over the last four years. I look at myself, and I don't think I'm visibly that much bigger. In fact, a friend of mine complimented me the last time we saw each other that my arms were getting slimmer. Even as I had just gone out to buy bigger pants because I was tired of being squished into a size too small.

Should I be worrying? Should I not be having the daily desserts that I got used to? Should I just be keeping an eye to make sure something's not wrong with me? Is this just how big I am, is it normal to still be gaining at 21 years? Was the doctor right, and I really am going to just keep ballooning out for the rest of my life unless I actively lose weight? Is it possible I could go back to my size 16 and be comfortable in my old comfy jeans again?

I don't want to be freaked out, and I don't think I am. But I also am afraid of being in denial. I know that this is in no way, shape or form what Fat Acceptance is about, but I fear that the criticism is right - that this is an excuse not to think. That instead of exercising hard and eating right, I'm latching onto a movement that says I don't have to (even though FA and HAES strongly encourage healthful eating and regular movement). I'm afraid that I've been just plugging my ears and singing "la la la" instead of paying attention to my body, out of fear that it would do exactly this.

If anyone has any advice, I'd like it. Mostly, I just needed to get this out, so it can at least sit here on the blog and not be perched on my shoulder every time I try to have a meal in this house.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chocolate Milk is Poison!

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a serious problem.

Despite vigorous efforts to eliminate Childhood Obesity, despite stricter and stricter guidelines around what is allowed in a school lunch, how many calories are allowed to be eaten, what is and is not allowed to be brought from home, despite some of the most invasive attempts we've made,

There are still fat children!!!!

As such, we shouldn't try to think about why the programs aren't working. We shouldn't consider the possibility that not all bodies are meant to be exactly the same size, that having enough food to concentrate in school is worth the couple of pounds that it might- MIGHT - make a difference on, and we shouldn't try to see about overhauls in the school lunch system so that more nutritious, tastier, fresher food might be served.

We should just keep doing the same thing, only more.

Schools May Ban Chocolate Milk over Added Sugar

There's a lot of gems in here. There really are. I'm not sure I know enough to point out all of them but by all means, if anyone wants to add to it in the comments or blog yourself, please share. Let me see what I can pull out on my own, without an entire MST-ing of the entire article.

Well, first and all, this fricking demonization of chocolate milk. I've talked about this a little bit before but I really think it deserves its own post some day - this idea that there are Healthy and Unhealthy things to eat, and that you can entirely contradict the Healthiness of something by adding an Unhealthy thing to it. Milk is Healthy - no one is going to dispute this. Especially for young children, milk is a great way to get a whole host of essential vitamins and calcium and good growing nutrients. Sugar is Unhealthy - yes, fine, it doesn't do a whole lot on its own. It isn't POISON, but it's not the world's best source of either nutrients or energy.

Therefore, Milk plus Sugar is UNhealthy. Because it has Unhealthy sugar in it. Which cancels out the good part of being milk.

"When you're telling kids that drinking chocolate milk is a healthy choice, it's sending the wrong message." - Concerned Parent.

Oh look, a wild Jamie Oliver appears! Jamie Oliver used Invasive TV Program Credentials! Jamie Oliver used Stupid Oversimplification!

"If you have flavored milk, that's candy," he told The Associated Press.

It's not very effective.

People. Food tastes good. That's part of how our bodies recognize that it's healthful. Sugar and fat taste good because both fat and simple energy are vital to our survival. When well-prepared, thousands of other foods taste awesome. Broccoli, zuchinni, pasta, couscous, fruits of all shapes and sizes, sweet potato, white potato, corn, baby corn, carrots, mushrooms, celery, beans, OUGHT to taste amazing.

But this is what we're teaching these children: None of these foods are acceptably healthy if they become more palatable to a small child. Celery with peanut butter? Well, unless it's organic, peanut butter is all fatty and Unhealthy, so no go. Corn or potatoes with butter? of course not. Beans and rice with cheese on top? Fetch my smelling salts!

Milk with chocolate? Nope.

Here's one more thing that might actually make me angrier than the whole rest of the article though.

Concerned Parent used Ignore the Facts!

"But efforts by some other districts turned sour after children drank less milk. Milk consumption drops by 35 percent when flavored milks are removed, according to the Milk Processors Education Program.
Cabell County, W.Va., schools brought chocolate milk back at the recommendation of state officials, and Fairfax County, Va., did the same after its dairy provider came up with a version sweetened with beet sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup...
Cooper and others argued children will drink plain milk if that's what's offered.
"We've taught them to drink chocolate milk, so we can unteach them that," Cooper said. "Our kids line up for milk."

Except, you have proof there. You have studies. Lots of children DON'T drink non-flavored milk. They just don't drink milk at all.

Maybe if you still offered them WHOLE milk they wouldn't hate it so much, too. Skim or 1% is all that's talked about in the whole article. Skim Chocolate, or Skim White milk. As someone who grew up on skim, let me tell you that whole milk is DELICIOUS.

But there's fat in it.

That makes it Unhealthy.

Really this all just makes me so glad to have missed the hysteria when I was in elementary school.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I shouldn't have gone back

Ugh. Internet. Why do you do this to me.

Why do you let me attempt to engage people and not then block me from reading the follow-up comments.

The following happened on a post on Sociological Images about a series of Klondike commercials where people under go horrible endurance challenges to win an ice cream. In the one under discussion, two big burly biker men had to - gasp - HOLD HANDS for five seconds!

So I go and read the discussion, and see this.

"Also, regardless of my sexuality, I wouldn’t want to hold the hand of someone that is obese and that doesn’t abide by basic hygiene. I wouldn’t even do that for a klondike."

A challenger appears:

"Why wouldn’t you want to hold the hand of an obese person? Are you afraid you might catch fat cooties or something? Your comment is hateful and dehumanizing."

The reply:

"I don’t find fat people attractive. It’s fine they’re fat, whatever, don’t care. I just find them physically repulsive. Others may find them sexy or whatever, but not me. The men in the vid are not attractive to me, and therefore I would not want to hold either of their hands, even if I was one of them.
So, do you want to apologize or am I supposed to get aroused to only fat people now?"

I stared at this for a while, totally baffled at how that comment even begins to be a reply to the challenge. Holding hands equals sex now? It's "fine that they're fat" but they're physically repulsive, and that's totally not a contradiction in attitude?

I couldn't help myself. All I said was "there’s a massive chasm of spectrum between “find sexually attractive” and “find physically repulsive”." I really didn't intend to go back to the post. I just wanted to leave that there. I really couldn't believe that those were the only two categories that this person put people into - fuckable, or repulsive.

Of course, I went back. The discussion was interesting and there were a lot more comments, and this was their reply:

"And I find obese people both sexually unattractive and physically repulsive. Particularly the fellow on the left in the commercial.
I know some people have the same feelings toward non-obese people. That’s their right and I don’t see anything wrong with either opinion."

I just.....what do you even say?

The original challenger had also replied in the meanwhile:

"Please show me the sentence in my comment where I said that you have to only be aroused by fat people. Please show me the part in my comment where I said that you had to be aroused by anyone.
There is a big difference between being sexually attracted to someone and holding their hand for five seconds. You don’t have to be sexually attracted to someone to touch them. Try replacing the word “fat” with the word “gay” or “Jewish” in your sentence and see if you don’t sound bigoted."

And the final reply in the chain:

"non-fat LGBT and/or Jewish people aren’t disgusting to me, so long as they aren’t fat. A person’s sexuality or ethnicity has nothing to do with their obesity. The mere thought of touching a portly hand is sickening to me. Now, what does your comment have to do with the video?"



I had to archive this. I can't really process it. How do you even? How do you get into that mindset? How do you so completely miss the point? How do you put no possible middle ground between sexual hunger and complete revulsion? How do you not understand that it hurts to be told so casually that my body or others like mine are so sickening to you that five seconds of touching a hand would be too much to ask? And how do you not see a problem with finding other people PHYSICALLY REPULSIVE based on one characteristic just because you think there are people who would do the same refusal to touch a skinny person?

I just don't even know what to say. I'm not even angry. I really can't be. I hope it's a troll. But my goodness if it isn't worth writing down just to have a record of.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


The other night, I ate way too much food, and I was also still hungry.

I'd been planning all day for a party some friends and I were having to watch the premier of the new Game of Thrones show (I've been a fan of the books for years, liked the show a lot), so I was intentionally not munching during the day. I had french toast for breakfast/lunch somewhere around 1pm, and then didn't eat again until around 7. By then, everyone had gathered, and I was hungry enough that, after waiting a little while out of fear of seeming rude somehow, I just got up and opened up the snacks (cheese/crackers/pepperoni and such). At the reminder that we hadn't eaten yet, we decided to place our order for real dinner, which wouldn't arrive for another 45 minutes or so. I fixed myself some cheese and crackers and said that it was starting to feel like I'd fall over if I didn't eat something now.

When real dinner did arrive, I was absolutely famished. Before I knew it, my cheesesteak was halfway gone. I looked at the second half and had a decision to make: knowing that I had some french fries still to eat, and there were crackers and veggies and dip and the like aplenty, was I going to eat the other half, or wrap it up and fill the rest of the way on snacks? I had eaten the first half so quickly, I didn't have a chance to really feel full, and I decided to start in on the other half. Then that was gone, and I was uncomfortably stuffed. I was still full another half hour later when dessert arrived. I was still full when veggies and dip went out on the tables. I was still full hours and hours later, when it was getting time to stretch out and go to bed and I couldn't lie on my stomach comfortably.

But all that time, I kept snacking. My mouth wanted very badly to move. Something in my mind was still saying it wanted food, even when I had to lie propped up on the pillow so I could avoid squishing my stomach. I nibbled on carrot and celery sticks and more crackers and finally a cup of tea seemed to help settle me down a bit.

I think what I'm learning is that I need to pay as much attention to how OFTEN I'm eating as I do to how MUCH.

If I'd had a snack sometime during the day, or if I'd asked to open up the cracker tray when it arrived at 6 instead of waiting, I probably wouldn't have been so famished at 7:40-whenever when dinner arrived. I probably would have chosen to wrap up the other half and fill the rest of the way up comfortably on snacks and veggies and dessert. I wouldn't have had such a long time recovering from the night.  And I have a suspicion that, although I ate too much in that one sitting, I might not have gotten enough from the day overall. If I had been eating smaller snacks more regularly, and thus less, slower dinner, I suspect I would have been hungry enough later at night to have the third meal I'm used to, instead of just the unrelenting feeling that i wanted to eat although there wasn't any room.

This learning curve is gonna take some work still. But I know that I'm in a far better place to tackle it than I used to be - not that long ago I would have felt a lot guiltier about being even a little hungry after filling up so fast, and I don't think I'd have been able to tease out what went wrong and use it as a learning experience this way.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Things Fat People Are Told

I'm not on twitter, and am only slowly getting the hang of how it works, but I felt it would be good to share this hashtag, found from Brian at Red No. 3. At #thingsfatpeoplearetold, a whole host of important things are happening.

Fat people can come together and give each other the support of knowing that they aren't alone. The number of similar and repeat tweets coming from different people is staggering, and the patterns among things people say to them is evident.

It's also evidence. It's a document of the existence of fat stigma and the sheer rudeness of some people. If anyone ever needs proof that random thin people can be downright nasty to fat people, there's nothing else that's needed.

It's useful inside and outside the FA community, I think. So I'm passing it along.

ETA: For those who don't want to slog through the twitter feed itself, Brian put together a sampling of posts from the first 24 hours. 

Friday, April 8, 2011


I've gotten a lot better since moving to New York City with counting walking as a form of exercise. I mentioned a little bit in my post about big-E Exercise vs. little-e exercise, but it feels worth mentioning again that it took a while for me to be comfortable with the fact that I can't run. It also came to mind when I was reading the Fat Nutritionist's post about gym class, and the plethora of people who, like me, hated running the mile.

Oh god, the mile.

See, I'm not fast. I can sprint decently well, maybe get through a hundred-yard dash. But I just don't keep up momentum very well. When I jog, I really don't go very much faster than I walk. I just tire out a thousand times faster. An actual flat-out run just doesn't last more than a minute or two. So, of course, gym class decided it had to grade me on how fast I could run a mile.

It took me about 15 minutes. The good news is, I don't remember anyone making fun of me for my lack of speed. In fact, I remember people cheering me on - as I was the last one on the track - and trying to encourage me toward the finish line. But I remember the pain. It hurt terribly, in my chest, in my throat. In that little spot under the hinge of the jaw where it dries out if you run too hard and you can't actually get any water into that spot when you're drinking. If they had let me walk the mile, it probably would have taken about the same amount of time - but I wouldn't have been in so much pain.

I remember collapsing when I finally hit the finish. I just fell down onto the track, grateful for not having to run any more. I remember my gym teacher trying to tell me to walk to cool down now, as if I could even stand up after all that running. I just stared at her.

I remember everyone else was in good enough shape to play floor hockey after the mile. I refused.

And yet, I've never been a bad walker. I remember a charity walk for diabetes that I did with my mother that was six miles long. I didn't even get all that tired until mile five. These days, I'm walking 20-30 minutes most days just to get from my dorm to my campus, and on days when I don't have class, I find myself taking the walk anyway to get it in. I can go around museums or theme parks or shopping malls for hours and hours on end, alternating walking and standing and doing just fine. It's only running that kills me so bad.

And I've had to get used to the thought that walking is still exercise. I'm still getting out there and moving around. It's just slower. It's not so very much less worthy than anything else that I could be doing.

Recently, I saw that a friend of mine is putting together a team for a walk-a-thon for the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. My first thought on seeing the plea for team members was a slight panic from not knowing how long it would be. When I found out that it was a two-mile walk, I relaxed. I joined. I'm actually looking forward to it. A nice long walk with several of my friends, a pace that I can keep up and also chat and hang out, or put music on if I so chose. It actually sounds really nice. I'm just still reflecting on the fact that I'm looking forward to an event that involves 2 miles of exercise.

(Those who are interested - with no pressure of course - I am trying to raise some funds with my team membership. Any little bit helps. The team as a whole is aiming for $5400 and reached $700 at the time of this writing. My personal donation page can be found here.)

Monday, April 4, 2011


I’ve been trying to start this post up for a while, but I just keep getting “I Can Hear the Bells” stuck in my head instead of actually writing it.

I had all but forgotten about the show Hairspray when I found it on my iPod on a bus ride a couple months back (like I said, I keep failing to actually write this post). I listened to it for the first time since getting into Fat Acceptance, and it gave me a few things to think about from that lens. I’ll clarify first that I can only talk about the Broadway version – I never saw the original movie, and while I like the movie musical, I just can’t adapt to changes in lyrics after memorizing the soundtrack that I own.

So obviously, there’s a whole lot of great Fat-Positivity in this show. For those who don’t know, we follow the life of high school student Tracey Turnblad, a fat dancer whose dreams are to dance on, and then to integrate, a popular TV show in 1960’s Baltimore. Tracey and her mother are both fat, as is Motormouth Maybelle, the black woman who leads the charge to integrate. Food, weight, love, diversity and acceptance all run through the show, and it ends with a bright future for all involved.

Tracey is a fantastic fat role model, to the point where I was stunned that I didn’t immediately think of her when I first started in on FA. Her size is a constant feature of the story, but she never lets anyone tell her that it will prevent her from anything that she wants to do, from becoming a TV star to getting the guy of her dreams. There’s a very relatable stock character in the unpopular girl who dreams of showing the whole world that she has a talent they never would have guessed, and Tracey being fat actually kind of helps to justify the trope; she isn’t just Hollywood homely, but has a body that would realistically be made fun of. All the same, she’s sunny and optimistic.

“Everybody warns that he won’t like what he’ll see,/ but I know that he’ll look inside of me.”

“Oh-oh-oh give me a chance,/ cause when I start to dance/ I’m a movie star.”

What struck me while I was listening this time, also, was the choice of talent for Tracey – dance. Hairspray is a very physical show with a whole lot of movement. To have not just a fat heroine, but a fat heroine who is physically talented and very active, and all of it without one iota of pressure from the show for her to use that talent to lose weight, is extraordinary. Tracey is never depicted as a sloth or a glutton.

Which does bring me to her mother, though. It doesn’t disturb the overall FA sense of the show, but it did bug me on this listen to hear the emphasis that IS given to Edna Turnblad’s eating habits. All of it can, I think, be read in a positive way – Edna just likes food and eats lots of it – but I think there’s also a sense that she at least is especially fat because she eats too much. There are jokes scattered about Edna’s lack of physical stamina, and I find it just a little bit of a shame to have them nestled in-between otherwise really surprisingly fat-positive messages.

“You can’t stop my happiness/ cause I like the way I am./ And you just can’t stop my knife and fork/ when I see a Christmas ham./ So if you don’t like the way I look well,/ I just don’t give a damn!”

BUT – overall, food is something overwhelmingly positive in the show. It’s love and health and strength, culminating in the whole song “Big, Blonde and Beautiful.” (I have NO idea why I am unable to find the Broadway version of the song on youtube; a search will bring up Queen Latifah in the movie version. Broadway lyrics are here.)

“Can’t you hear that rumbling? That’s our hunger to be free,/ It’s time to finally taste equality.”

Now, what I feel far, FAR less qualified to talk about is the intersectionality of the show.
The Civil Rights movement is the backdrop to the story, and act two is primarily about the struggle that Tracey faces as an ally to Maybelle and her son, Seaweed, as they lead the effort to integrate the Corny Collins show. There’s a strong sense during the show that discrimination is basically the same and always wrong, especially on something as silly as looks – whether it’s the color of your skin or the size of your body.

And while that’s a message I agree with…I think I just don’t know enough to comfortably conflate FA with older civil rights movements. It feels somehow like I’d be trivializing the struggle of people of color to claim that Fat Acceptance is equivalent to it. There are certainly similarities in my mind, but it just feels…lesser. Not that there aren’t serious social issues around fat stigma and bullying and the like, but that I don’t feel comfortable with the phrase ‘fat oppression’. I might get bullied for my size, but people don’t think of me as a potential criminal. The government has never told me that I couldn’t marry or that I had to stay away from thin people. It just doesn’t feel on the same level.

That’s really a tangent, though. If you haven’t seen the show, I recommend the movie musical version to get the full story, although there are a few songs missing there that were in the Broadway soundtrack, and some things are changed. I’m not sure why Hairspray flew under my FA radar for so long, given the absolute emphasis on being yourself and following your dreams no matter how big you are.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Unlikely Ally

When I saw's list of "6 Fitness Tips Everyone's Heard (That don't work at all)" this morning, I was curious, and a little apprehensive. But pleasantly surprised. Despite the site's overall propensity toward throwing out fat jokes as much as it does casual sexism and other things that make me understand why the site makes some people uncomfortable, they had this to say about BMI:

"If you've ever tried to get fit, you've probably been introduced to the concept of BMI, or Body Mass Index. The concept is over 100-years old, and is totally showing it. BMI is more or less weight divided by height. If it's above a certain number, you're obese.

You can probably already see what the problem with that is. By that extremely oversimplified metric, Reggie Bush (pictured here) ...
... is a big old fatty. You could be 200 pounds of muscle or 200 pounds of fat (give or take some bones and blood or something) and BMI wouldn't know the difference.

That would be bad enough if BMI was just like an astrological sign or penis measurement that you use to brag groundlessly to other people. But it's not just a frivolous vanity stat, it's something that's being used to judge pretty important things, like whether you can apply for a job as a cop or firefighter, certain military jobs, or whether you can undergo surgery.

It might not be exactly the same as evaluating job applicants by reading the length of their lifeline on their palm, but it's pretty close. And do you really want anything to do with a system that has no place for guys like this?"

It was a nice little surprise, and to think of BMI as something along the same level of scientific reliability as your star sign felt like a good way to frame it. The list also features myths about eating breakfast making you lose weight, and fitness tips unrelated to weight at all like running barefoot. (Swear, one day I'll get my rant up about the Wii Fit, and the way "fitness" seems NEVER to be defined as anything other than weight-loss exercise.)

I should be sure to mention that the article does still, for the most part, subscribe to Calories-In-Calories-Out, and those who are very sensitive to statements like "Of course working out and eating less will make you more fit" might still want to stay away. I don't use the word "ally" in the title here to mean that Cracked is magically a Fat Acceptance space. Just that, given the fact that the writer of the article does say things like that, I was surprised and pleased to see BMI given the dismissal that it deserves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weight Loss > Superheroics

This is a short memory, but one I've been meaning to share for a while. Sparked by Katja's post today about a new series of kids' books:

"Every family has it's secrets. It's just that Henrietta Sharp's family is in the business of saving the world. And now she is too. But when your ten-year-old body packs on some extra pounds, not even an uncommonly large vocabulary or the ability to travel between dimensional slices of the universe can make your hips look smaller."


What do you even say to that? The commenters at Family Feeding Dynamics are doing a pretty good job ripping that description to shreds - my 'favorite' part is how apparently interdimensional space travel isn't anywhere near as important as looking thin. Not even being healthy, either, just having small hips.

Something that I've been wondering about and concerned about is the way that the Childhood Obesity Epidemic and the general public at large treats the idea of puberty weight gain. It seems like such a common-sense, natural, totally normal, inconceivable-to-object-to idea that in the years between being a Child and an Adult, one must gain quite a bit of weight. For one thing, you're going from your ten-year-old height to your adult one. For another, in girls-becoming-women especially, the whole shape of the body is changing. You get breasts, which can add a good deal of weight to some women. You get hips - poor Henrietta is being taught that her hips widening out to adult woman proportions just mean that she's "packing on the pounds", not that she's growing up. Both new men and new women are adjusting to new hormones and everything else that comes with transitioning into adulthood.

My understanding is that when teenage boys start to develop big appetites to fuel their growth and change, it's treated as a given. Of course they need more to eat, they're growing boys. When teenage girls show the same instinct, they're letting themselves get fat.

It's sort of a lazy segue but it brings me to my memory. My doctor started worrying about my weight when I was around ten or eleven. I remember the way I used to be so proud of myself for checking out my dieting books with their recipes. I specifically remember a little chicken salad in a pita bread. I'd never had pita bread before, hell, I never made my own food before. I would make my little sandwich and my lunch so I could be all prepped out for the next day at lunch.

I remember getting disheartened when I was still gaining weight.

I remember the day I reached 100 pounds. I can't remember anymore whether this was before or after the doctor actually put me on a diet, I don't remember how old I was. But I remember that 100 had sounded like such a big number. That was going to be the number I didn't want to go over. If I reached 100 pounds, that meant I was fat. And at that point I would have to diet myself back down. I remember how huge I felt looking at the scale that day.

(I later decided that 200 pounds was the weight I didn't want to be at - THAT would be Food Ogre weight, THAT would be the point where I had to diet. Right now I'm hovering between 185 and 200 depending on how much exercise and food i'm getting and I'm trying really hard to say 'fuck it, i'm big'.)

At some point, when I was 15 or 16, I stopped gaining. And what I remember most of all was how well-praised I was by the doctor when I finally got to "maintaining" rather than "gaining". By this point, I had long since given up actually trying to diet. I was having binge eating episodes. I tried to explain that I wasn't doing anything different than I always had been - well, maybe I'm choosing to eat turkey over fatty meats more often. Maybe. If you insist that there must be something. I was kind of proud of myself, too. It was a big weight that I was at, but I stopped gaining. Something must have happened.

A few years later, I looked back and thought, "DUH! I finished growing!"

It never seemed to occur to my pediatrician that the rate at which I was gaining weight during puberty wouldn't be the rate I would gain at for the rest of my life. That I would naturally level off when my body stopped growing and widening and turning itself into a woman's body. No, I was gaining weight so absurdly fast and much that if I didn't diet at age 12, I was going to be a million pounds! As long as I was eating the way I ate as a kid, I would never ever stop gaining. Let alone lose.

It sounds so absurd to me now that I can't even talk about it without being sarcastic. But it was so real to me then. It seemed so obvious that as long as I was eating the same way, I'd keep gaining the same amount. Forever. Until I was 200 pounds, 300, 500, half-ton - who knew where it would stop? I was scared, but it wasn't enough to keep me sticking to a diet. It was just enough to make me half-lie to the doctor when she asked what I was doing differently. I couldn't really admit that I hadn't changed. It didn't make any sense to me why I had stopped gaining.

I read about stuff like poor Henrietta and I feel bad. I truly feel awful - for the fictional girl, and for however many real-life girls are going to read her story, and start to worry when their hips widen and the number on the scale goes up. For the girls who are going to assume that 100 is such a nice big round number, it must be a good maximum weight cap - and who no one is going to tell any differently, because they're being told to lose weight. For the girls who will grow up afraid of eating as much as they're hungry for, because their parents, doctors and teachers have given them the impression that their natural weight gain is too much, and the result of sloth and overeating.

But also...I have to laugh. Maybe it's just so I don't really cry. But I truly wish I lived in a world where I really could just laugh at someone who thought to write a book where interdimensional superheroics are less important than gaining a little weight. I wish that everyone in the world could see how completely absurd that idea is.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Someone was More Eloquent Than Me

Thanks to Katja for pointing this out. Someone did actually get involved in the Slate Anti-Childhood Obesity thing with a well-rounded article pointing out the cruelty inherent in many of the proposals otherwise being made. I.e:

"Schools should actively stigmatize being fat," writes one member of the Hive; "few things are more terrifying to a kid than being an outcast." Another declares, "We need to stop telling children to 'love themselves the way they are.'" A third suggests that the government take custody of any child with obese parents, as a way to "get both parents and children motivated to exercise and eat healthy."

(The linked article provides links to these other proposals. I don't want to deal with them being on my page). 
It also does a good job providing the evidence that shame doesn't work, that the more you are shamed for being obese the less healthy you are, and trying to make people actually think about the fat people involved. You can't have a War On Obesity without a War On Fat People - and having a war fought against you hurts your health more than anything.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Impressions of Yoga

So, I started taking yoga classes a few weeks ago. I found a studio a few blocks away from my dorm, for $5 a class, and figured there was very little that I could really lose out by trying it. I'm currently working at keeping a twice-a-week schedule in the beginner class, and trying to make it enough of a habit that I can potentially find a new studio to keep it up with when I move.

I'd done a little bit of yoga before, but only on the wii fit. Which I have a few issues with, which I haven't quite gotten around to writing about yet but mostly because it's really old news. Wii yoga was kind of awesome in that it gives really accurate and neat biofeedback showing where your center of balance is, and it describes the poses well enough that I felt I was getting pretty good at them. I enjoyed the fact that it's not an intense exercise, but when I'm done using it, I can feel that I've definitely worked.

But, the Wii isn't equipped to give me modifications for the poses I can't do. It can't give me advice, and the encouragement it tried to give was more annoying. So, I thought I'd try a real class.

And it's going well. I'm enjoying it. Primarily, it's the same thing - it's intense, but in a completely different way than any exercise I've done before. And the philosophy incorporated in a real yoga studio is great. There's so much emphasis on respect for the body, on energy and movement and not pushing yourself too far. In some ways, I'm more flexible than I thought I was. And in others, I'm less, but that's okay.

There are a few things that feel like my fat is getting in the way. There are a few poses that I can't quite breathe right because I'm squished a little much. There are lots of things I can't do with my legs, because my thighs are just too big to curl around. I can't put my feet together on the floor and keep my balance, so I have to keep them open.  But I don't feel shamed for it at all. The environment in the classes is so supportive, and no one cares even the smallest bit if I'm modifying something for whatever reason.

I was talking to a friend about one of the poses that I'm having the most trouble with, which they call the Corpse Pose in my studio (relaxation pose - lie on your back with your legs stretched out and arms stretched out at your side. Do nothing but breathe). The trouble is...well, my ass is too big. If my knees are bent and my feet on the floor, I can lie my whole spine straight on the ground. But if I stretch my legs outward, my butt curls up under me, and there's a big space under the small of my back that's painful to stay in for any length of time. I'm getting some help from my instructors, whether it's the advice to keep a prop under my knees to keep them up some, or to lie in a fetal position instead, or to sit up and do a different meditative pose.

But I think the biggest thing that's coming into focus is I can really say things like this now. I can just say, "I have too much butt for this position, what can I do instead?" It's still self-conscious, and sometimes embarrassing, but it's a fact. It's not something to be ashamed of, and it's not something that's going away anytime soon. The important part is that I find something else to do, and it doesn't stop me. And the important part is that I'm getting secure enough to just accept it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Someone Be More Eloquent than Me

So I read Slate Magazine mostly because one time I was linked to a pretty cool article and every so often they have something I'm interested in. If nothing else it's neat to check up every day or couple days and see what's being talked about.

Well, right now, it's Childhood Obesity (booga-booga!). There's a reader-submission contest for your solutions to this horrible problem. I was just ignoring the prompt and clicking to different articles for the last few days since it first showed up. Tonight, Slate decided not to want me to read it. Because a pop-up advertising the contest came up. And when I clicked the "close" button, not only did it NOT close the giant window-filling ad about how to Cure Childhood Obesity, but opened a page in another tab about the contest.

I wish I were eloquent and well-studied and brave. Because I want to answer this the way I think the majority of the FA community would. Stop the War ON Childhood Obesity. Stop teaching young fat kids that they are lazy - that they MUST be lazy and eat too much if they are overweight. That they should cram as much physical activity into every day as possible, even the thin ones, lest they become Fat Lazy Overeaters. Food Ogres. Stop teaching the thin kids that fatness is caused by a lack of self-responsibility, because it just gives them ammunition to further the bullying that fat kids already get for being unattractive or unathletic.

Start caring that fat kids are bullied. Stop thinking that shaming them for their weight is only a good thing if it causes them to start dieting in elementary school.

Start caring about the kids who develop eating disorders out of fear of Obesity. The fat kids who are told that they need to lose weight or they will die, and hear nothing but praise for how well they've done losing. The thin kids who diet for fear of becoming fat, who go unnoticed because it's expected that they need to diet in order to stay thin.

How to solve Childhood Obesity? Stop making such an enormous deal, start promoting healthy, balanced diets (that include healthy, balanced treats) and encourage physical activity as simple as playing outside for ALL children.

But I don't know how to say that, and be taken seriously.

I don't know who's reading this blog, what experiences you have had, what medical knowledge and social knowledge you have. But if anyone feels up to the task of putting that out there...if anyone feels willing to tell Slate that solution, please, someone do.

I've read through so many archives that I can't find specific posts very easily. But I will say that a search for "school" or "children" or "childhood obesity" in the Junkfood Science archive turns up some pretty heartbreaking posts (leave yourself some time, it's easy to spend a lot of it here). This post in particular always sticks in my memory:

"If we have a 6-year old girl who is 3 foot, 9 inches tall she would be considered to be a “healthy, normal weight" at 49 1/4 pounds (BMI 17.1). If she gained 1/4 pound more, however, she becomes “overweight” at 49 1/2 pounds. For untold numbers of children classified as “overweight” they are within a fraction of a pound or few pounds of “normal.”
However, if this little girl grew a mere 1/8 inch, she would be considered to be a “healthy, normal weight” again!
At 54 1/2 pounds (BMI 18.9) she crosses the 95th percentile cut-off and is now labeled “obese.” A very different picture of childhood obesity than the mainstream media is portraying.
However, if this little girl was a mere 1/8 inch taller, at 3-9 1/8 inches tall, she would be merely “overweight” again.
So, for a 6-year old girl who theoretically isn’t growing taller, around a mere 5 pounds makes the difference between being labeled as a “normal” weight or all the way to being “obese.”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Calories Without Context

*If you find it uncomfortable to read calorie counts, you might want to skip this; I don't think I can illustrate my point without numbers

So, I live in NYC, where chain restaurants are required to post their calorie counts next to every item on the menu. I count myself lucky that for me, it's just kind of a grating little annoyance, and not a full-blown trigger like I've read happens to many people in recovery from eating disorders. When it first came out, it did make me second-guess myself, and there were a good few days when I was picking the lowest-possible choices, because the ones I liked made me feel like, well, a Horrible Food Ogre for daring to eat them.

The problem with the counts though, I don't think it's just that they exist. I don't even think it's just that they're posted up in big letters for all to see, although I am on the side that would rather have say a small pamphlet listing the information avaliable at the counter, or counts otherwise avaliable by request only. I haven't done all my research, so I don't know how the amount of calories in one food over a similar food might be an indicator of how much fuller it would make you feel. In an ideal world, calorie counts would just be a number to help people gauge how much they'd like to eat based on how hungry they are, or how they're planning their day.

But this isn't an ideal world, and a whole lot of us have grown up with calorie-counting issues. Overwhelmingly, counting calories is about eating as few of them as possible. It's difficult to shake those associations, even as one moves into a more intuitive way of eating. I think for me at least, the problem was a lack of context.

For years and years, I thougth that 500 calories should be about the biggest you get for a meal. That's a fair size. But if you could have a 400 or 300 calorie meal, that was probably better. I have no real idea how I got this in my head, beyond the fact that my mom's Lean Cuisine meals topped out at around 450 or so. I knew that these meals were Healthy, so clearly that was a good number for a meal, i suppose. I got all that praise for eating Lean Cuisines, even though I would always be famished several hours later, after dinner time was over and I wasn't allowed to eat any more substantial food. I remember eating a lot of ramen noodles for dinners when I was young. They only had 300 calories, surely that made it a good meal.

I remember it occuring to me as a child that 500 sounded perfect if you were in a 2000/day calorie plan, like they did teach was necessary at the time. (When I was in school, I was personally getting dieting advice from my doctor, but I don't remember it being emphasized as a school-wide thing the way you hear about today). If you had 500 calories for breakfast, and 500 for lunch, and 500 for dinner, you only hit 1500 which meant you lost weight, right? Or there was an extra 500 left over for a snack. Sounded perfect.

So eventually I got through high school and went off to college, where I was in control of my food. I settled into a pattern well enough. I tend to wake up too late to eat breakfast, and I'm not usually hungry when I wake up. So I have lunch first thing, dinner some five or six hours later, and a third small meal at night. I got used to the dining halls (and after a few weeks of joyously eating chick-fil-a every day, finally decided to get a little less fried chicken in my diet).

And then the counts came out. I discovered that my Quiznos sandwiches I was eating so often tallied up above 500 calories. My tuna salad was a whopping 700! When I first saw that, I refused to buy it for a week. 700 whole calories in one meal? God, what kind of a whale does that make me to eat a 700 calorie sandwich?! That's the most calories on the whole menu!

Oddly enough, Chick-Fil-A was looking more appealing at that time. Their fried sandwiches topped out around 500, and grilled ones around 300. They even had a salad that listed itself as 200 calories before dressing. A few times, I tried to eat that as a meal. And while it was a delicious salad with brocolli and carrot and grilled chicken and a lot of was never enough. Never filling, as soon as I finished eating it, I was hungry again.

I finally told myself to relax, take a breath and think logically. 700 calories times two meals a day plus a smaller something later couldn't add up to being a whale. It couldn't just be about the number of calories in one single meal. It should be about the overall amount of food I was getting each day, and whether it was enough for me. There were several days when I only ate those two meals, and 700 was more than appropriate. There are other days when I've eaten more for lunch, and I go for a smaller sandwich elsewhere in the dining hall instead. Or vice versa, days when I go for a smaller sandwich because I know that I'll be eating a lot of dinner later.

The trouble isn't calories necessarily. It's calories with no context. It's seeing 700 as a giant whale number, and not thinking about how much food you actually need to get through the day.

This is probably tangential, but leads to the same place in the end. Before the winter holidays this year, I started seeing posters in the bathrooms and such put up by the health center about how to avoid overeating at the holidays. One tip they had was that if you were going to a party where there'd be a lot of food, eat first. So you wouldn't be hungry, and wouldn't eat at the party. And this struck me, frankly, as terrible advice.

Why not advise to eat lightly, so that when you have an opportunity to enjoy a lot of tasty food with friends, you can enjoy it? Have a small lunch, because you're aware that there will be a lot of food later in the day. Maybe it was just my imagining how badly that advice would backfire on me, especially earlier in my life when my binge-eating was under less control. To this day I tend to prefer to eat a little of everything - the difference is that if I'm stuffed full at a party now, I'll take just a bite of everything instead of cramming one of everything down. Everything is just more enjoyable if I go into it hungry, because if I go in full it really won't stop me from wanting to try all the tasty things my friends made.

Where this anecdote connects to the post is that I was thinking about the party scenario in terms of calorie context. If I eat a light meal the morning of a big party, call it under 500 calories, and then over the course of a 4-5 hour party I eat another 1500 a few bites at a time, I'm hovering around the 2k/day that's the benchmark for "enough food". I can't think of any reason for anyone to have issue with that pattern of eating a few times a year (substitute thanksgiving or Christmas dinner or 4th-of-July picnics or whatever else for big fun food events). Except, I would have eaten 1500 calories in one party. And that's SO much food. That's WAY too much food. It CAN'T be healthy to eat that much!

When it's all about counts, it becomes really difficult to remember the context. It all boils down to whatever number you get into your head is a meal's worth of calories, and then judging everything you eat by that contextless number. That's the part that causes the trouble. Not the number itself.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why This Matters

 Carrie at ED Bites posted the following story as part of her Sunday Smorgasbord this week. It is a heartbreaking read by a woman named Kath, chronicling the mistreatment and lack of treatment she faced for her eating disorder. Kath was diagnosed with EDNOS - Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified - which in the context of her post sounds suspiciously like Bulimia While Fat. Kath's story almost reads like a checklist of the things that the FA movement aims to change. It isn't about pigging out on junk food all the time and asking not to be judged (although the non-judgment is part of it), it's not about neglecting exercise in the name of Fat Rights, it's not about encouraging anyone to be fat who wasn't already. It's about making sure what happened to Kath stops happening to anyone.

The link is here; I'll be posting excerpts to go along with my list of what went wrong in this story.

*The idea that fatness is caused, always, exclusively by overeating, and no other possible explanation.
 Despite the fact that Kath's ED behaviors were restrictive eating and purging, "On learning that I am fat, most people assume that my eating disorder is binge eating or overeating because I must have been gorging myself to get this way. Until a few years ago, every single doctor or medical professional I went to diagnosed me with overeating, often without ever asking me what I eat, or if they did and I told them, they didn’t believe me. They said I must be cheating, or lying, or not counting some things that I ate. I simply had to be an overeater to have “let myself get that fat.”"

*A dangerously casual attitude among young women about ED behaviors, or even the disorders themselves. Or a variant; the believe that ED behaviors are less dangerous or more desirable than being fat.
"I started when I was about 13 or 14. Some bullies (girls) forced me to stick my fingers down my throat and make myself vomit because, “That’s what fat ugly bitches like you should do.” A year or so before this incident I had actually been shown what to do by another slightly older girl. I worked with her at an after-school job, and she thought she was being kind to the fat kid. She did it and it kept her slim, so she showed me how to stick my fingers down my throat and how to disguise that I was doing it."

*A tendency in the medical community to focus on weight above and beyond other symptoms; or a refusal to see weight gain AS a symptom more than a cause.
"For 20 years, I kept presenting doctors with the same physical issues: An irregular menstrual cycle that manifested itself as constant bleeding, amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycle), or dysmenorrhea (pain during menstrual cycle). In my early 30s, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS); I discovered I had been showing symptoms and characteristics of it since I was 12. I was told yet again that the way to “cure” PCOS is to lose weight."
This deserves more commentary. PCOS is notorious for CAUSING weight gain. Yet her perscription - multiple times - was to lose weight and the pain would go away. It couldn't be that her syndrome had made her gain weight as fast as she had at puberty, or that treating the actual causes might result in both less pain and a return to whatever Kath's natural weight set-point was. Just lose weight to cure the weight-gain-causing illness.

*An unshaking belief in the theory of Calories-In-Calories-Out; that more exercise and less food will never fail to produce weight loss, and can not be unhealthy. In fact, the idea that exercise obsession is virtuous, and never the sign of disordered behavior, especially in someone who may be starving, but is not thin.
"I was exercising between six and eight hours per day. I had lost over 50lbs (about 25kg) and dropped five dress sizes. I was desperately unhappy and my physical health was failing. I was not coping at work and it was suggested that I should see the counseling service through the employee assistance program. I saw a few different psychologists—they all focused on my weight. Eventually, out of desperation I begged one of them to help me, told him of my suicidal thoughts and explained my obsession with diet and exercising. His response was to suggest that I add another half hour to the six to eight hours I told him I was already doing, “To get you over the plateau.”

Kath attempted suicide after multiple doctors refused to see past her weight to her actual emotional emergency and other health issues, and thankfully survived. Her story is brave and painful and heartwrenching, and this is why we're here, why this movement matters. I am lucky as anything that my own issues about food and weight are limited to a few warped ideas and mental blocks.

I'll leave you with Kath's final words, which sum up everything else I meant to say.

"It is important to me to talk about having an eating disorder as a fat person. Where thin or normal weight patients often get sympathy and understanding, and even simple recognition of their disorders, fat patients are ignored, considered lying or “cheating” somehow. So often disordered behavior is sanctioned in fat people simply because there is a belief that fat people must have got that way through inactivity and gluttony.
How many people have to suffer, or even die, because of the belief that no matter what the cost, thinner is always healthier?"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On Beauty: Pretty vs Sexy

I'm not totally sure that this is going to make sense to people other than me, or that it's strictly a Fat Acceptance topic all the way through. But it's been rolling in my head today and I think it's related enough. I've been thinking  lot about beauty, and perceptions and standards and different types. I think I can boil down most forms of beauty and attractiveness to two categories. There's Pretty beauty - characterized by youth, innocence, flowy skirts and hair, maiden-ish charms - and Sexy beauty - characterized by fullness of figure, confidence and assertiveness and revealing clothes. I make no claims about the feminist implications of these categories and I don't think one is any better than the other, but I do think there's a lot of personality involved in which one different people aspire to be.

I think that for the most part, there's a place that's carved out for fat women to be Sexy, but I don't see the same place for fat Prettiness.

I can't really come up with a lot of specific examples beyond Queen Latifah in Chicago. But in general, I feel like I see a fair amount of FA bloggers touting their sexiness and virility and strength, which is wonderful. But...I kind of like being a damsel. I always have. I like the quieter, maidenly Pretty beauty that I don't ever really see applied to people with bodies like mine. I remember when i was younger and thinking about my looks that I did think I had a pretty face. I liked my eyes, and I love my hair, but I remember thinking it didn't really matter. My Pretty face was sort of wasted on my fat body,  which couldn't match.

I think in some way, it makes sense why the culture would allow for a space for Sexy fatness. If you're starting with the assumption that fat people are fat because they overindulge in food, then it follows that you can assume they overindulge in sex as well (not in part because there's this really weird and, for me, kind of icky connection between food and sex: see my post on the Truvia commercial). Therefore, there logically has to be a place for fat people to engage in sex, and thus be Sexy. There's also the issue of curviness, which has its place to be considered Sexy and comes with fat bodies more obviously than thin.

I think a lot of the difference in my mind at least, is that Sexy beauty is associated with the act of having sex. Pretty beauty is sort of divorced from it. Calling a young girl "pretty" is a compliment, that speaks only about her looks and traits, while calling her "sexy" is creepy because it associates her with the behavior of sex. Sexy is a loaded kind of beauty that's predicated on an ability and openness toward sex itself. I don't think it's possible to think of oneself simultaneously as Sexy and as chaste or modest or shy (Although if you do, please feel free to comment). Whereas I think there's a possibility for Pretty sexuality - Pretty maiden-y-ness is also easy to fantasize about and bring sex into, but I feel like Pretty can occupy both a sexual and nonsexual space, while Sexy just can't.

Where it becomes kind of personal is the part where I don't always like to feel Sexy, because I don't always want to have sex. But I still don't always feel Pretty. I imagine Pretty and it's always slim. This isn't to say that no one has ever called me Pretty, because I have been told that. But it doesn't internalize the same way. I've been called Sexy also, by my partner, and it's different the way that that absorbs into who I am. Some nights, I love being Sexy. Sometimes it makes me feel strong and confident as well. But I want to have the place to be Pretty, too, and more often. If I'm having a night where I just want to cuddle on the couch, it's okay to think of myself as Pretty. But if he starts telling me that I'm Sexy, there's a sort of loaded, light pressure that comes in (not from him at all, but from myself). I don't know how to think of myself as Sexy if I don't want to engage in sex.

I don't really know how to conclude this. I suppose it's just one of those things where there seems to be more variety for thin than for fat. More acceptable personae to take on. I feel like if I were a thin person, I would always be able to think of myself as Pretty, it wouldn't be a question whether or not I could fit into that label. I'd be better able to slip back and forth between Pretty and Sexy at different times. But as it is, I've always felt that I couldn't really be Pretty the way I am, and while it's great to have Sexy as a choice, I sometimes feel like I'm missing a safer, more natural to my personality space to slip back into.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Junk Food vs Real Food

So, I suppose coming off the heels of yesterday's Nutella Lawsuit post is as good a time as any to try and work this idea out.

I grew up, as I'm sure most people here have, and as I'm not yet convinced is a terrible problem, with a distinction made between Junk Food, and Real Food. Real Food is what you eat at meals - meat, vegetables, pasta - and also some snacks like fruit. Junk Food is what you eat otherwise - chips, candy, soda, etc. I think everyone deals with these distinctions. And I think it's a good distinction to make. Nutritionally, there's a difference between a bag of chips and a bowl of pasta, even if I'm eating both as a snack.

But since getting into the FA movement, I've started to wonder about how to phrase this properly. I don't want to demonize any given food to myself or others by calling it "junk". Food is food, and it's not like it isn't okay to eat Junk Food. But the word is so loaded.

I've been thinking of it lately as a difference between Substantial and Insubstantial food, instead. It's basically the same breakdown. Substantial food is what's going to keep me full and provide some real energy. Protein is big in this for me, since I can not stay full from meals that don't contain enough of it. Nice substantial starches, veggies. Insubstantial food is more of a compliment to Substantial Food. A bag of chips with my sandwich for lunch helps finish filling me up, but by itself it only lasts a little while. And I've talked before about the trouble I have if I try to get full by eating sweets.

Part of what this does for me is to kind of re-orient myself to concentrate on how hungry I really am. I do still have trouble allowing myself to eat Substantial food after a certain hour, but I'm working on eating something filling and bigger instead of eating 5 snacks to try and get the same effect. I feel like this is healthier, to put something nutritionally sound into my tummy, and save the insubstantial snacks for when I only have a small bit of hunger or just want something to taste good. 

I guess I wonder if it really does anything to re-label the groups in my head. I'm not really sure it helps me sort them any more efficiently. Maybe it just makes me feel like a good Fat Acceptance-ist to try not to exclude snacks and candy from "real" food.

I wanted to write more about the way that the world draws such a line between the groups, that was what the point of this post was supposed to be. That even when "junk food" is allowed in a house, a lot of the time it's off-limits except for very specific cases and times. Going back to the Nutella thing, the idea that if something is in the Junk Food category, it can not possibly be part of an otherwise balanced meal. I do think that's something that my Substantial/Insubstantial categories might help with. If a food is Junk, then it doesn't belong in a meal, but if it's just Insubstantial it can be a compliment to something else, it just doesn't stand on its own.

The more I type about all this though, the more I do get stuck wondering if it's worth a whole lot of words. It feels more like something that I just have to make a tiny change in my head, just change my attitude a tiny bit, and then basically go on the same way I always have.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Nutella Lawsuit - the tastiest kind

A California mother decided to sue Nutella because of its "hyped nutrition claims".  I don't even know where to begin here.

First of all, I knew exactly what the "health claims" were when i saw the article. Because the Nutella commercial that goes on about how it's made with "skim milk and a hint of cocoa" is, frankly, hilarious. Let's not pretend here that it's anything other than delicious hazelnut chocolate ganache in a jar. (It's under "silence" at this link)

From the article: "
In its marketing, including in claims made on its website, Nutella touts its cocoa and hazelnut spread as ideal for busy moms trying to "nourish their children with whole grains" and says that "Nutella can form a part of a balanced meal."
The suit, filed in federal court in San Diego, alleges that many consumers of the product would not have purchased it had they been aware that the health claims surrounding it were overblown."

I don't see a false health claim in there. I see a statement that balanced meals can include something with saturated fat in it. The marketing doesn't claim that Nutella has any health benefits, or that it's healthy to eat it as a meal on its own. Just that you can put it on toast for god's sake. And I know absolutely zero people who buy Nutella as a magic Health Food and would stop buying it now that this "news" about its healthiness has come to light.

So, let's just try to break this down here:

A) No, Nutella is not going to be classified as a Health Food anytime soon. It's chocolate. It's yummy. It's sugary. These are all true.

B) The commercial never actually made any claims that Nutella, in and of itself, IS a Healthy Food. All it said was that it's tasty, and can be put on wheat toast and what-not as part of a healthy breakfast.

C) Yes, wheat toast with Nutella on it can count as a healthy breakfast. The same way that a bagel with cream cheese can count, or pancakes with maple syrup. (Or dressing on a salad, or butter on a potato or...) Just because it's chocolate doesn't mean that Nutella is inherently less healthy than any number of other flavor-adding fat-or-sugar-based condiments that we use on food all the time.

*Edit: I was discussing this with Thlingan last night, and he tells me he's looked into it, and Nutella is nutritionally (as far as fat, calories, etc. go) about equal to peanut butter. I had a suspicion that it couldn't be worse than most other foods, but it's nice to have an actual food to compare with.

D) You're really suing the company because they claimed that you can add an unhealthy food into a healthy breakfast and it doesn't discount all the rest of the nutrition involved?

E) No seriously, that commercial still cracks me up. I'll eat a spoonful of Nutella for dessert, that isn't a "hint of cocoa".

Gee, it's like there's some kind of.....middle ground, here? About food? It's almost as if it's possible for a food to be both sugary/fatty AND part of an overall healthy meal. It's like adding things that taste good to foods that are healthful makes kids - and adults - more likely to eat it!

I want to make some kind of comment about being sad that the society we live in produces people who listen to "can be part of a healthy breakfast" and hear "must be 100% Healthy Food". That there is such a sharp divide between Healthy and Unhealthy that there could even be this misunderstanding in the first place. But honestly, I'm too busy giggling.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Little bit of nothing

I love watching Let's Plays on youtube. I suck at video games, but I'm madly in love with the medium, and I have a lot of fun watching other people play.

I was quite excited to see someone take up a game called Paper Mario, one of the first games I ever beat and a long-time favorite.

Until I saw half the comments cheering at the player's description of Princess Toadstool as a "fat-bottomed bitch".

Thanks, guy. Thanks for killing any interest I had in watching your project because it's kewl to hate on the game's female character and calling her fat. It's a frickin sprite! Thanks for letting me know before I watched it that you were gonna make it nice and uncomfortable for me to watch.

It's silly, it's not going to ruin my whole day that I got disappointed by a Let's Play. But it's nice to know I have a blog I can let this out where people will understand why it's annoying, instead of throwing it on facebook and worrying I look like I'm over-reacting and over-sensitive.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Big-E Exercise

I have a lot of baggage about exercise.

I've been trying for a while now to get past it, to stop remembering how it felt when I was a teenager and to start moving forward to life as an adult, who wants to be healthily active and feel good about it. I've finally gotten to a point where exercise generally feels kind of nice. Not if it's too rigorous, but a nice walk in the park, or a few rounds of wii sports or a little bit of freestyle dancing can feel really good, can get some tension out of my body and help soothe me in a bad mood. But it was so much not always that way.

When I was young, exercise was just what I was supposed to do in order to lose weight. In my last post about The Sign, I noted that this baggage is why I was so pissed off, and why I think it's so important that people learn that exercise has other benefits. Because this is what I remember - this is what it feels like when the only thing exercise does for you is make you slimmer.

I'm going to stress that I don't mean for this post to reflect things that I was taught about exercise, necessarily. This is just the way that it felt and the things that went through my mind. Even if I were being taught the opposites, these were what i learned.

(ironically enough, I write this post while under doctor's orders to limit my walking due to an oh-so-lovely strained muscle in my foot. Thanks, ice.)

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sign

This was the first incident in my life that made me think I wanted to get a blog, and be even in the smallest, least-noticeable way, an activist. Due to length and so I won't have to stare at this stupid thing every time I look at my blog, almost all of this is going under a cut.

At some point last semester at school, there went up a new sign. I'm a student at NYU, in New York City, the home of the fast-food calorie count (which I'll discuss another time, I'm sure). Evidently, this sign wasn't just going up at my school, but all around the city. It shows a stick-figure going up a flight of stairs with the text: Burn calories, not electricity! Take the Stairs! Walking up the stairs just 2 minutes a day helps prevent weight gain. It also helps the environment."

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Does anybody know anywhere that still sells at-waist jeans that actually come up to the waist?

I was at home last weekend and discovered a pair of jeans in my closet that still fit (I've been a size 16 since about 16 years old - for the longest time, I thought that your pant/dress size was SUPPOSED to correspond to your age). Great, since I'd just worn out a different pair of jeans and this meant I didn't have to buy one. So I brought them back to school with me.

And I realized, these jeans are incredibly comfortable. And finally I figured out why, in the last few years, after an entire life of size 16 at-waist jeans being the most comfortable thing in the world, my jeans have been squishing me and on a really bad day painful to wear. (barring the possibility that I've gone up a pant size, or that vanity sizing is screwing with me...)

My old at-waist jeans were from back when Old Navy made at-waist jeans. And they came all the way up to my waist. I have to wear a belt with these because my waist is a good several inches smaller than my hips. Using the same belt, on my Land's End "at-waist" jeans, I can get it to go maybe two notches in, three if I feel like squishing myself. On the Old Navy, I can get four or five with perfect comfort and ease. So I think at least part of the reason I've felt so fat and uncomfortable in my jeans lately is that they're measuring a different part of me and calling it "waist".

The faux-at-waist jeans come up about to my belly button. Which means that they basically cut my belly in half. Half of it is tucked under the belt line, and the other half muffin-tops over, which is painful in addition to making me feel unattractive. At-waist jeans come up those few inches higher and cover basically all of my belly, tucking it all comfortably inside.

Dear Fashion Industry,
I do, in fact, have a waist. It is not my hips. It is several inches higher than my hips. Please bring your at-waist pants up to my actual waist. Just because I'm fat doesn't mean I don't have a shape, and even if I were thin I happen to like feeling covered.

So, serious question, does anyone know of any company that still sells at-waist jeans that come to the waist? Old Navy stopped making them long ago, and I am sad.